UCL suffers cyber-attack16/06/17Defence
University College London, one of the world’s leading universities, has been hit by a major cyber-attack.
The university described it as a ransomware attack similar to May’s cyber-attack which compromised NHS computer systems.
Universities, which carry out commercially sensitive research, have become frequent targets for cyber-attacks.
Staff and students were warned of the risk of data loss and “very substantial disruption[s]” by the university.
The attack initially started on Wednesday (14 June) and continued throughout Thursday (15 June) where access to online networks was restricted.
“Phishing” emails were said to be the cause, where they contained links to destructive software.
However, the university later suggested that it was more likely to be from contact with a “compromised” website where clicking a pop-up page may have spread the malware infection across the server.
Graham Rymer, an ethical hacker and research associate at the University of Cambridge, said: “UCL quickly swtiched all drives in the system to ‘read-only’ following the attack, which prevented the malware from doing real damage.”
Students and staff were told that “ransomware damages files on your computer and on shared drives where you save files” and were told not to open any suspicious attachments.
UCL added that it believes the risk of further infection has been contained but is urging staff and students to help with efforts to reduce “further spread of malware”.
The university was awarded by the GCHQ intelligence and monitoring service as a “centre of excellence in cyber-security research”.